PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/WHDH) — Rhode Island State Police on Tuesday released the names of the troopers involved in a deadly shooting on a busy stretch of Interstate 95 last week after getting pressure from civil liberties advocates and days after Providence Police released the names of its officers involved.
Detective Lt. Cynthia Trahan, Cpl. Scott R. Carlsten, Detective Cpl. Herbert D. Tilson and Trooper Garrett S. Hassett were identified in a press release as firing 23 shots after Thursday’s high-speed chase of a pickup truck. All four officers have been placed on administrative leave, the department said.
The driver of the white pickup, Joseph Santos, 32, was killed, and passenger, Christine Demers, 37, was injured.
Rhode Island State Police had refused to identify the officers for days. Providence Police on Friday identified five of its officers as involved in the shooting and said they had collectively fired about 20 rounds at the truck.
The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday pushed the agency to name the troopers and said its decision not to showed “a glaring and troubling lack of transparency.” It also called on state police to release its high-speed chase policy, which the agency also did Tuesday.
Santos was driving the pickup Thursday when he led numerous officers and troopers on a high-speed chase along Route 10 and down a connector to I-95, where he was stopped. Video shows that he then rammed surrounding cars as officers surrounded the vehicle, and officers shot him to death. Police have said the shooting was justified because Santos was putting lives at risk.
At the time, police were looking for another man, Donald Morgan, the subject of a manhunt for allegedly stealing a state police cruiser less than two hours before the shooting. Morgan, who had been charged with obstruction and possession of a stolen motor vehicle, was handcuffed and being taken to court by a trooper identified Tuesday as Michael J. Doherty.
State police said Doherty saw an accident, so he pulled over and got out of the car to respond, leaving Morgan handcuffed in the cruiser. Police said Morgan was able to steal the vehicle, ditching it in Providence.
Police searching for Morgan that morning received a tip that he may have jumped into the back of a white pickup.
It was still not clear Tuesday why Santos fled and whether the two incidents were connected. Morgan’s ex-girlfriend told news outlets Morgan and Santos were close friends, and Providence Police Commissioner Steven Pare told WPRI-TV that investigators were looking into whether Santos helped Morgan escape.
“We have been since Thursday,” he told the station.
State Police Col. Ann Assumpico said both the chase and cruiser theft are under investigation. She said the department also is reviewing its polices and protocols and that she has ordered partitions be installed between the front and back seats of all marked Rhode Island State Police cruisers as soon as possible. Doherty’s cruiser didn’t have one.
Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU, said on Tuesday that it was too early to say whether police had violated policies. But he pointed out that both Providence and state police generally limit high-speed pursuits to two cars, which Thursday’s pursuit exceeded.
“In light of the policy’s recognition of the danger of these pursuits, it is difficult to comprehend why permission was given (assuming it was given) for so many cruisers to be involved in the chase,” Brown wrote in an email.
Morgan was arrested Friday and was ordered held without bail following a court appearance Tuesday.
As the investigation continues, partitions will be installed in all state police cruisers to ensure prevent similar situations moving forward.
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